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Donovan's Reef
Donovan's Reef
Actors: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero
Director: John Ford
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Indie & Art House, Classics, Comedy
NR     2001     1hr 49min

Two ex-Navy buddies are living a life of leisure on a South Pacific island until they are interrupted by a prim Bostonian in search of her father. — Genre: Feature Film-Comedy — Rating: NR — Release Date: 28-MAR-2006 — Media T...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Elizabeth Allen, Jack Warden, Cesar Romero
Director: John Ford
Creators: William H. Clothier, John Ford, Otho Lovering, Edmund Beloin, Frank S. Nugent, James Edward Grant, James Michener
Genres: Action & Adventure, Westerns, Indie & Art House, Classics, Comedy
Sub-Genres: John Wayne, Westerns, Indie & Art House, Classics, Romantic Comedies, Classic Comedies
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/05/2001
Original Release Date: 06/12/1963
Theatrical Release Date: 06/12/1963
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 49min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
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Member Movie Reviews

Chrystine H. from CREIGHTON, MO
Reviewed on 12/9/2021...
Wonderful story. Hadn�t seen this one of John Wayne�s movies.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Michelle H. (snoozemouse) from CHEYENNE, WY
Reviewed on 6/6/2010...
I just love this movie, John Wayne was a wonderful actor no matter what type of roll he had.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Watch this one for the performances!
abt1950 | usa | 08/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Donovan's Reef" is a strange hybrid of a movie. On the one hand, it's a vehicle for John Wayne to show off with the rest of the very talented cast. On the other, it's also a morality play about racism, set on a lush, (and distant) South Pacific island, but very relevant to the United States of the early 1960s. In these days of multiracial awareness, the latter aspect seems a bit dated, and talk about "half caste [non-white] children" is quaint. Cliches and cultural stereotypes abound, but in its time "Donovan's Reef" was a progressive and even (as another reviewer has called it) "subversive" movie. The beautiful exotic setting no doubt made the message of racial equality more palatable to the mainstream American audience of the day.Today, however, the movie endures primarily because of the strength of the cast and the characters they create. A young Lee Marvin plays the brawling Gilhooley and Cesar Romero the pleasantly oily French governor. The Asian actor who plays the governor's aide is truly splendid. His name should be up in the main credits along with the stars. Although there is not a weak performance among the lot, my favorite moments are the exchanges between Wayne and Elizabeth Allen, his foil and romantic interest. She plays the supposedly straitlaced Bostonian and he the salty ex-pat bar owner. Both are strong characters, and they give each other as good as they get. On the negative side, the narrative is sometimes disjointed, as if the movie tries to be too much in too little time. It's as if too much film ended up on the cutting room floor. A pity, because if what was edited out is of the same caliber as what was left in, some rare moments have been lost. Too bad John Ford isn't around to do a "director's cut." "Donovan's Reef" may not be a great movie, but it sure is fun to watch."
Last Ford/Wayne Teaming a Lighthearted, Brawling Comedy...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 11/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What do you do when you're a workaholic 68-year-old director, and your doctor orders you to take a vacation? Well, if you are John Ford, you grab John Wayne and your 'Stock Company' of actors, jaunt off to Kauai, the "Flower Isle" of Hawaii, and make "Donovan's Reef", a old-fashioned, brawling comedy! While the film was certainly not 'top-drawer' for either the director or star, it is a pleasant diversion, and would mark the final 'film' teaming of the legendary pair.

"Donovan's Reef", equal parts "South Pacific", "Hawaii", "What Price Glory?", and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", was already 'nostalgic', by the time it was made, as so many actors who would have been Ford 'naturals' in key roles had passed away, or were too old to play the characters believably. Thus you have Lee Marvin instead of Victor McLaglen, Jack Warden in a 'Ward Bond' role, and Elizabeth Allen in a part 'tailor-made' for a younger Maureen O'Hara. Even Wayne, himself, at 56, seems a bit 'long-in-the-tooth' for the physical demands of his role (challenging the 32-year-old Allen in a swimming race?), as well as the romance (a fact that even the Duke would agree with; this would mark the last time he would play a romantic lead, 'winning' an actress so much younger). Also, knowing that in less than two years Wayne would lose a lung to cancer, one winces at the number of cigarettes he lights up, throughout the film. "Donovan's Reef" was certainly geared to an earlier time and sensibility.

All this being said, if you can leave 21st century wisdom about tobacco and alcohol abuse "at the door", the film is a treat, with postcard images of Hawaii, Lee Marvin, an 'over-the-top' joy as Wayne's drunken buddy/adversary (tuning up for his Oscar-winning role in "Cat Ballou"), hilarious support from Cesar Romero as the lecherous Governor/General, and Dorothy Lamour (who'd starred in Ford's classic South Seas adventure, "The Hurricane"), as a husband-hungry chanteuse, and, in memorable bit roles, Duke's son, Patrick, Edgar Buchanan, Dick Foran, and Mike Mazurki.

I truly wish there WERE a "Donovan's Reef" in our's the kind of place where I'd want to live!"
Polynesian Pleasure
William R. Hancock | Travelers Rest, S.C. United States | 06/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There are days when things just don't go right. Business doesn't hit on all cylinders, or something in one's personal life is out of alignment. Irritation can set in. Frustration. Just plain old down-in-the-dumps mopeyness.

There ARE things that can be done about this, especially if you have a VHS or DVD player. You can pop in any number of good movies and use your scene selector to get you to that "special part" that just warms your heart and chases your blues away.
You can watch the end of "Shenandoah" from the point where Jimmy Stewart goes to the family cemetery to talk to his wife Martha, on through to the arrival of "the boy" in the middle of Sunday preaching. Or you can watch James Cagney as George M. Cohan get his Medal of Honor from FDR in "Yankee Doodle Dandy", tap dance down the White House steps and join in the troop parade down Pennsylvania Avenue singing "Over There". Or you can scene-select to the Von Trapp family singing "Edelweiss" as a farewell appearance at the Salzburg Music Festival in "The Sound of Music" and then follow them across the alps into Switzerland at the close to that fine film. OR , if the season is right, you can quick jump to the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont, in time to see retired General "Tom Waverly"(Dean Jagger) get sandbagged by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and company at the surprise reunion of the "151st Division" at the end of "White Christmas". can plug in "Donovans Reef" and just sit back and LET THE WHOLE THING ROLL!!!!! Because from the first moment of the opening credits, when the delightful, infectious musical rendition of "Pupa O Ewa" ("Pearly Shells") cranks up...until the very end of the film...when "Pupa O Ewa" is cranking can just leave your "doldrums" behind.

A "downer" mentality cannot stand up to "Donovan's Reef" for long.

This 1963 "swan song" for the collaborative filmmaking team of John Ford and John Wayne is one of the most enjoyable light comedies ever put to film. There are many movie aficionadoes who love Grant & Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby" , Hepburn & Tracy in "Adam's Rib" and such, and you can't "diss" classics like "Some Like It Hot" and numerous Doris Day vehicles. But me, I say "Donovan's Reef" belongs up there with the best of them.

There's not a lot of snappy repartee here, but that doesn't matter. Neither does the fact that it seems almost a case of "Let's make this up as we go along" moviemaking. "Hmmmm. This is a Paramount Picture", set in the South Pacific...Hey!!!...let's get Dorothy Lamour for it!!!!!". However it was conceived and put together...IT WORKS!!

It is a broad, boozy, knuckleheaded comedy that works because it has really good actors in it, having a really good time, turning out a story full of heart...all under the guidance of one of Hollywood's greatest directors.

John Wayne is Michael "Guns' Donovan , bar owner of "Donovan's Reef"...a place Jimmy Buffet would surely like to visit. Lee Marvin is Donovan's old war buddy "Boats" Gilhooly, who is his rival in "most everything". They fight a lot, especially since they share the same birthday and neither likes to share. Some of the staged "altercations" between them smack of Wayne vs. McGlaglen in "The Quiet Man". Jack Warden is the local missionary doctor, a widower twice over, who has three children by a polynesian wife (royalty), and one older daughter from his first marraige in America.

Island frivolities get sidetracked when word comes that the older daughter (a "proper Bostonian") is coming to see her father
(on a covert investigatory mission to see if a will can be broken). Suspecting this daughter, Amelia (Elizabeth Allen), might be a racist who might hurtfully interact with her mixed race siblings, Wayne & company stage a "switcheroo" con on Ms. Dedham from which represents the Duke ("Guns") as their father and not "The Doc".

The course of the film is about establishing the con and then maintaining it. They fail in this, but it turns out not to matter. Amelia is not entirely the prig they take her to be...and by the end of the movie she is no prig at all.

This is a fun movie to watch and experience. The cast is uniformly great. Cesar Romero is a hoot as the French colonial governor, as is John Fong as his assistant. Mike Mazurki is funny as a local gendarme and Marcel Dalio evokes his own share of chuckles as the island priest. The children are played quite well by Jacqueline Malouf, Cherylene Lee, and Tim Stafford. Jacqueline Malouf, in particular, is appealingly winsome as Leilani, the eldest of the three island children and the heir to her mother's throne. A scene near the end of the film where Amelia realizes Leilani is her sister and overturns "the con" is absolutely...exhiliratingly...heart warming.

Is this a feel-good movie? You betcha. A "South Seas" state of mind caught on quite strongly in the early 1960s. This trend had three basic points of origin...the play and film version of "South Pacific", a very popular television series called "Adventures In Paradise", and good old "Donovan's Reef".

Three good deals, all the way around.

As for Duke's end of the deal,this DVD edition of "Reef" is just beautiful. The sound is superb, as is the image transfer. The colors of Hawaii come out gloriously in one would expect when the lens work was done by William Clothier, one of the greatest of all Hollywood cinematographers. And Cyril Mockridge's musical scoring is sublime, especially his choice to feature "Pupa O Ewa" extensively in the movie. That song gets under your skin and STAYS there...and will often come back to stick in your mind when you are nowhere near a television set or DVD player.

"Donovan's Reef" ...or "Gilhooly's Reef"...makes no nevermind to me. I love it just the same. Thanks Duke, and thanks Mr. Ford.
We owe you."